Noel Ducharme presents painting to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, The Chronicle Journal, Tuesday, January 25, 1977.

Stories from the Collection…

As we continue with our digitization project, the history of the Gallery’s collection practices emerges and with it, a number of interesting stories about the works of art in the collection as well as the artists responsible. With such a vast and varied collection and only so much time and space, many of these stories, artists, and works of art, are unfamiliar to the public at large. The digitization of our collection will allow us to share some of this information with you. One such example involves the Gallery’s very first acquisition. Noel Ducharme’s Untitled acrylic painting on canvas was donated to the Gallery by the artist in 1981.

Ducharme was born on the Lake Helen Reserve, just east of Nipigon, in 1921. At only six months old, he moved with his family to the Fort William Indian Reserve adjacent to Thunder Bay. His father was a career teacher and his mother a trapper. Ducharme credited his mother with teaching him a special understanding and appreciation for animals and plant life, as well as imparting many of the stories and legends that would later inspire his artwork. While he always had an interest in art, it wasn’t until his forties, following twenty years of work on lake freighters, that Ducharme pursued art as a career path more actively. In fact, Ducharme’s first commission came from the Captain of the last freighter he worked aboard, who had encouraged him to pursue a career as an artist and requested a painting of his ship. With the financial support of the Fort William Indian Band, Ducharme opened his “Gallery of Canadian Indian Art” in 1977. An important and influential local artist and businessman, Ducharme would later become known as the “Pride of the Fort William Indian Band.” Ducharme’s importance to our Gallery and within our region is just one of the stories that surfaces as we continue this project.

– Jaime-Brett Sine, Curatorial Assistant/ Registrar

(Image: Noel Ducharme presents painting to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, The Chronicle Journal, Tuesday, January 25, 1977).

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